Big Box Burnout

A Hippie in Suburbia


Time is Money?

Remember when 30 was ancient? I do. When I was a teenager, 30 was an inconceivable number, one I associated with the most boring stages of life. Now that I’m nearing 40, I’m off the map. I had no idea what this coming decade would look like- and to be honest I’m not sure I do now. I’m an explorer and a cartographer for my own life, and it’s exciting!

But as I move through my day and talk with others, I keep hearing this same story echoed and it’s making me sad.  It seems like women  in their 40’s have given up, are waiting it out or are totally complacent in their lives.

Here’s a sample conversation:

Her:  I don’t really like my job and what I do everyday. It’s boring and the people are pretty negative, but I just have to wait 10 years longer so that I can retire.

Me: JUST 10 more years?!?! That’s a long time!

Her: it’s okay, it will go fast.

OK WAIT. It will go FAST? Are we telling ourselves that the next DECADE of our lives doesn’t matter because it’s just a waiting game and it’s worth it because freedom is right around the corner?

I can’t swallow it, I just can’t. You’re right to assume that I don’t have a pension or a career job that I have invested in, but I think this has given me the freedom to view the world from another angle. Time is more than money, it HAS to be. If we are here to earn and spend and save, I think I’m in the wrong place.

I want to thrive in my next 10 years. I want to learn, grow, explore, help others, make memories. I want to create and inspire, to love hard and honour myself through my actions. I want to nurture myself and my family- I don’t want it to “go fast.”

In 10 years, my daughters will be nearing their 20’s, which means that this decade might be my last chance to show them that you CAN live with passion, dream big and reach high. I can show them that it’s okay to fail and fall flat on your face, change direction and take risks.  That life is not always easy, but you need to LIVE IT. I’m not sure that I can teach those things while simply “passing time” in my own life.

I get it though, I get that the idea of security into retirement is reassuring. I know that I should feel like this matters more right now.

Waiting out a pension is responsible and completely reasonable. It’s what your supposed to do. But what if  the costs are too high? If we could assess the value of a decade using another index that places value on mental and physical health, happiness and fulfillment- would it still be worth it? What is a decade worth?

I appreciate that working is not optional. We have to make money to live. But if you’re in a solid job that you don’t find rewarding, just waiting for a decade to pass, don’t you owe it to yourself to at least entertain the possibility of  spending your time differently? Or is the finish line too close and the cash prize too great?

What could you do if you didn’t finish the race?



Shaken Awake

This year is proving to be a year of change. Every time I sit down to write a blog post I realize that I don’t know where to begin to describe where I am currently.

Still in the suburbs, still trying to act in accordance with my true self. It’s not always easy but I’ve been shown some great teachers in the last few months.

In February, I had the opportunity take a break from the suburbs for a week to binge on Vitamin D, Latino rhythms and seawater. It was heaven. My spouse and I turned our devices off and switched our focus to the present. We set the intention to leave every bit of our everyday lives out of our blissful week away. And it was blissful in every sense.

Coming back home felt to me like a heaviness that I can’t quite explain. When we had landed and it was safe to turn our phones on again, my gut sank. Do I have to turn it on? How long can I avoid checking email? Facebook? I know, no one likes to come home from vacation, but I’ve been away many times before and it never felt like this.

Through the line-ups, grab the luggage and head out and catch a cab back home- and at this point that the universe sent me a serious sign. There was a family ahead of us in line. They were packing their things into a cab when the man just erupted. He started throwing things out of the cab while swearing, threatening the cab driver and using racist slurs. We were stunned, arrested in absolute disbelief while his wife begged him to stop and his young children watched fearfully.

When security stepped in, we flagged down the next car and sped away, wanting to re-create a calm space where we could catch our breaths and debrief with our kids, who had witnessed the entire event. At first, all I could think was “what kind of place do we live in, where people feel that they are entitled to treat a fellow human in this way?”  But then I realized that this could be future me.  That heaviness and inexplicable stress that I had felt when we landed could morph into frustration and rage over time if I didn’t address it. While I didn’t condone his actions, I understood where it was coming from. That was a scary realization.

I had been shaken awake and needed to understand the heaviness so that I could  prevent myself from becoming THAT man. Was I dreading work? Housework? Did I want more family time? Where was this feeling coming from?

When I couldn’t rationalize it, I turned to meditation and had an “aha” moment- no matter what I change I am always going to sense the collective unhappiness of the suburbs- a thick fog of drudgery and routine hanging over an uninspiring landscape. It’s always been there, but I didn’t realize until it wasn’t.

So now what? Whats the next move? Other than living more inline with my values and honoring my commitment to the planet, what needs to change? Is it possible to feel like myself and at the same time be a suburbanite?  Is it even possible to be a Hippie in Suburbia?

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The Big Move

I never wanted to move to suburbia.

I am open-minded. I am adaptable. I am NOT a suburbanite.

But when I started a family in Toronto and my spouse and I agreed that we wanted to own our own space instead of funding someone else’s dream, the suburbs were the only option. “We’re not selling out, we’re buying in!” we joked cheerfully, as we left our old life behind.

I’ve lived in different parts of the world. In Australia I learned how to drive on the other side of the road, worship the ocean and drop my R’s. In Vietnam I learned about community and  how to navigate my bicycle through chaotic traffic… so what’s so challenging about life in the suburbs?

It’s just place- a place doesn’t define who you are, right?

Things started out strong. I sewed, washed and hung cloth diapers for our little girls, I carried my baby everywhere in a sling as we turtled along at a toddler’s pace, walking as far as her little legs could take her. I started an Etsy store- upcycling fabric into children’s items, we wasted less, avoided all chemicals, ate healthy vegetarian meals, rode bikes with a trailer to places we couldn’t walk- it wasn’t so bad, this suburban living. I got this!

But as time crept on, I started to feel more isolated, it was harder to make connections in the suburbs. I cast my net out wide, meeting as many people as I could hoping that some of them were kindred souls, but there was no one out there for me.  I became the token hairy hippie, the weird one. My lifestyle became a novelty in a room full of beautiful, well dressed suburban stay at home moms.

Then, I lost my way– It’s not to say that I didn’t have the confidence to continue on as I was, but eventually, without support, it became more challenging to put the same amount of effort into things that were making me feel like an outsider. It was harder to stick to my habits when those around me were making simpler, easier, more convenient choices- choices that just happen to fall outside of my value system. The suburbs offer so many opportunities for instant gratification, retail therapy and take out meals- it’s hard to resist the pull.

I started to loosen up- So what if we buy the odd hamburger here or there? Disposable cup? Sure no problem. Yes, that magic eraser really DOES work much better than baking soda and muscle… it’s a slippery slope my friends. After almost 9 years of living in a suburb, I barely recognize myself. What happened? Who AM I? How did I let this happen?

Which brings me to now: I’ve decided that this year, THIS YEAR is a wake up call. This year I am stripping away my layers of suburban camouflage. This year I am making changes. This year I am taking back my hippie habits and living according to what I believe in.

And I hope you’ll join me on the journey.